The man who died in a lithium-ion battery fire was recovering from heart surgery when the fire destroyed his apartment building in the Bronx.
Michael Thornton, 64, was in his sixth-floor apartment in the 40-unit residential building on Olinville Ave. near Thwaites Place in Allerton when the fire broke out around 4:05 p.m. Saturday, authorities said.
“He just had heart surgery (with) a stent in place,” the man’s niece, Lethea Thornton, told the Daily News. “It was good. He had a new lease on life after the surgery.”
Several batteries were found in the hallway of his apartment, according to an FDNY source, though several family members told The News they don’t believe Thornton owned electric bikes.
“This is all so shocking,” Lethea Thornton said. “She walked with a cane.”
The doting uncle and retired IBM employee often texted the woman to sign up.
“I played the piano since I was a child,” he said. “It was very bubbly. He loved the family. He was the little brother.”
Thornton was a native of the Bronx. He never had children of his own.
“He was always happy,” Lethea Thornton said. “(He) always recognized holidays, birthdays. He was a family man”.
Thornton was at least the third New Yorker to die in a lithium-ion battery fire this year. In the first 10 weeks of this year, batteries, often used in electric bikes and scooters, have been the cause of 33 fires that have injured 42 people.
“I’m definitely surprised,” said Thornton’s nephew, Westley Thornton. “I did not expect this. I am speechless.